Book Review: Zero Percentile


Note: This review was published earlier when the author had sent me a personal copy for reading. Now the book has been published under Rupa in November and has come out in the market and is available in all major stores.

Zero Percentile is a book that is compelling and easy read. I finished the book in a sitting in a matter of few hours.

It is story of an Indian middle-class boy Pankaj (yeah, Pankaj) who thinks education as a means of improving the financial, and subsequently social status of his family. He has his plans clearly laid out: to be at IIT.

If you think this book is Chetan Bhagat’s What Not to Do at IIT, then you couldn’t be more wrong.

A twist in the tale finds Pankaj in Volgograd, Russia. Before leaving India, his father reminds him of an astrologer’s predictions (you know how seriously we Indians take them) who had predicted at his birth that he will travel abroad and will fall in love with a foreign woman.

Prediction does come true, but Pankaj is clueless about the outcome since the astrologer had failed to comment on it.

The book is set into three parts: India, Russia and finally the love story. My favourite is the second part that is set in Russia. The survival story of Pankaj tinged with bits of Russian (Russia that was U. S. S. R.) history and culture completely hooks a reader’s curiosity.

The book is interesting despite its slow start with details surrounding around of Pankaj’s birth. But if you reflect on these incidents in humour as author has intended, it is easy to get to the core of the novel. Language is easy, conversational but a hard-core critic may advise catching hold of a professional editor. However, the book manages to come across as realistic because author Neeraj, as jacket says, has spent several years in Russia.

Zero Percentile is a story of friendship, love and betrayals. It’s a story that has a slice from our life at school and college. Story of a boy growing into a man. It’s a story of a boy wrestling with his destiny. These we may have heard of before. But what makes this book unique is that it’s spiced with interesting ingredients and reflections: Indians identifying with Pakistanis abroad, handling lazy hostellers and moochers, skilful Indian way of putting corruption to use, protection gangs, entrepreneurship, money, sex and white women. Zero Percentile is about a time when people had not even heard of AIDS as it was an emergent disease. Yet subtly author manages to  leave a message that would make Red Ribbon brigade proud.

My recommendation is go read this book, for it’s truly a honest, non-preachy story of a ordinary boy with not-so-ordinary memoirs. The snugly-printed paperback version of book is reasonably priced at 95/- . This book is published by Rupa Publications, and it’s currently available for 76/- at Flipkart. Book is at the moment amongst the top 7 recently selling books.

You may know more about the author Neeraj Chhibba on his Web site and his blog. Go Neeraj, give Chetan a run for his money! 🙂

27 Responses to “Book Review: Zero Percentile”

  1. 3 Philip November 12, 2009 at 7:11 am

    did u review this book earlier or did i read the book and its review at some magazine, am not sure. The story looks very familiar.

    • 4 Poonam Sharma November 12, 2009 at 11:08 am

      Liju, you are right. I have published this review earlier. The book has been recently published by Rupa Publications. So posted it again. 🙂 Added a note to the post to avoid confusion. Thanks! 🙂

  2. 6 Arti Jain November 20, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Hey Poonam….Thought I’d jump in and add that the book is also available at

  3. 8 Animesh Raj November 22, 2009 at 2:13 am

    hmm…will have to read this book!
    the best thing about books published by Rupa is that they are moderately priced and can be easily afforded even by students like me. i wish the other publishers follow suit!

    • 9 Poonam Sharma November 24, 2009 at 8:30 pm

      True, affordability is one main reason why Chetan Bhagat is writer of the masses. Glad we have a publisher like Rupa who takes care of that.

      Be sure to let us know what you think of the book when you read it.

    • 10 Pradyot Ghate January 13, 2010 at 7:14 pm

      Rupa & Co. publishes “good” books at the same price (in range of 350+) as other publishers. It is “unsellable” non-lit books that they sell at sub-100 price point because nobody will pay more for these books (quite frankly I am surprised people read these books at all!)

  4. 11 neo November 24, 2009 at 6:13 am

    Nice review, it’s on my list of books to read. Now, when are you reviewing that Mother Teresa book ? 🙂


  5. 13 The Successor November 24, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Really? Lets wait and see what you write about me in February.

  6. 15 Nikhil December 1, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Sounds interesting! Gotta pick it up! PS: I’m back!! 😀

  7. 17 Namrata Kejriwal December 8, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Hey heard a lot.. looking forward to read.

  8. 19 Mainak Jas December 16, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Sounds interesting! A lot of blogs are talking of it! I guess I’ll get a copy myself.

  9. 20 Lucky February 8, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    I m soory to say this but i really didn’t like this book AT ALL. it is full of illogical material, unnecessary sex topics n stupid scenec which doesnt make a proper story.
    Can writer please answer that waht he want to convey through his book????

  10. 21 Krish April 8, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Thanks for the review Lucky but are you sure that the book is not so good bcz taste matters from person to person ….

  11. 22 Namrata Kejriwal July 4, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Nice one to read … i like the book … but it was not as i expectd..

  12. 23 vijayshinde_6621 July 4, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    its nice book friends. I read review after reding book. Fortunately it is truely rated.
    Thanks guys for good stuff.

  13. 24 k.kalyan September 7, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    yeah i just brought
    it y’day is really a good book but little boring but sahan kiya ja sakta hain.the most good thing about book is it is not present dated story nd u try to be more in the good job done dear

  14. 25 karan arora April 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    u r a fab. writer waiting for ur next book

  1. 1 Neeraj Chhibba Interview - Zero Percentile: Missed IIT Kissed Russia Trackback on December 3, 2009 at 4:43 pm
  2. 2 Book Review: Zero Percentile 2.0 « Visceral Observations Trackback on January 23, 2012 at 3:13 am

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